BRASILIA (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping broke his silence on the unrest happening in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong, saying yesterday that its most pressing task is “to bring violence and chaos to an end and to restore order.”
Xi warned that protests threaten the “one country, two systems” principle governing Hong Kong that has tipped into worsening violence with two dead in a week.
Hong Kong has been ruled by a unique system guaranteeing greater freedoms than on the mainland since its handover from British rule to China in 1997.
But protests, which began against a now-shelved extradition bill to China, have spiraled into wider calls for democracy and police accountability as violence and demonstrations roil the city, challenging Beijing’s authority.
Xi issued the warning during the 11th Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) summit in Brasilia, capital of Brazil.
The Chinese leader said his government has an unswerving determination to protect national sovereignty, security and development interests and to oppose any external force interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs.
Xi said the continuous radical violent activities in Hong Kong seriously trample on the rule of law and social order, seriously disturb the territory’s prosperity and stability and seriously challenge the “one country, two systems” policy.
He reiterated that it remains the most pressing task for Hong Kong to bring violence and chaos to an end and restore order.
“We will continue to firmly support the chief executive in leading the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government to govern in accordance with the law, firmly support the Hong Kong police in strictly enforcing the law, and firmly support the Hong Kong judicial bodies in severely punishing the violent criminals in accordance with the law,” Xi said.
Xi made his views known as Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam on Friday condemned a “barbaric attack” on her Justice minister, who fell while being surrounded by a crowd of jeering pro-democracy protesters in London.
It was the most physical confrontation involving a member of Lam’s Cabinet since the protests, now in their sixth month, erupted in the international finance hub.
Teresa Cheng, Hong Kong’s deeply unpopular Secretary for Justice, was ambushed by around a dozen masked demonstrators as she prepared to attend a speaking event on Thursday night in London.
They shone torch lights on her while calling her a “murderer” and shouting slogans of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protest movement.
Video of the incident showed Cheng falling to the floor during the melee — although it was not immediately clear if she was pushed by protesters.
She regained her feet moments later and was escorted away with no visible signs of injury.
Cheng suffered “serious bodily harm” during the altercation, Chief Executive Lam said in a statement.
Cheng, whose department is in charge of prosecuting protesters who have filled city streets for months, is the first senior Hong Kong official to be injured in scuffles since the unrest began in June.
Lam called on police in Britain — Hong Kong’s former colonial ruler — to investigate, describing the incident as an “attack” which “was barbaric and violated the principles of a civilized society.”
Cheng is in London on a visit to promote Hong Kong’s role as a dispute resolution and deal-making hub.
She is one of the most unpopular government officials in Hong Kong, seen as playing a key role in pushing forward the now-shelved extradition bill to China, which sparked the ongoing unrest.
No curfew plan
The protests have tipped into worsening violence with two dead in a week and further protests planned for Friday.
For a fifth straight day on Friday, protesters caused widespread disruption with barricades and rallies.
Overstretched police have drafted in reinforcements, while Hong Kong’s government has denied rumors of an imminent curfew.
The five-month crisis has entered a new phase in recent days with hardcore protesters embarking on a campaign to “blossom everywhere” across the city in a bid to stretch police resources.
2 deaths from anarchy
The protests, fueled by fears that the territory’s China-backed government is encroaching on the city’s freedoms, are backlit by fears China may send in its troops to squash the movement.
Late Thursday, the Prince of Wales hospital said a 70-year-old man died a day after he was hit by brick during clash between pro- and anti-government protesters.